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Walruses usually swim in the Arctic, but now a young walrus is sunning itself on a jetty in Smögen.
– That’s what they do.
Lars Öivind Knutsen is an ecologist and walrus expert who was in Greenland just a few months ago, together with underwater photographer Göran Ehlme, to film walruses. Now Lars Öivind is sitting in a car on his way down from Bergslagen to Smögen, to perhaps catch a glimpse of the one lying on the jetty asleep.
– It loves to lie in the sun. Walruses have a special rhythm, where they go out “on the job” and look for food. Then when they come “home” they lie down and sleep and snore for over a day, then they swim out again.
Why this particular walrus ended up so far south is hard to say, he says.
– They are looking for food. Perhaps it has gotten away from its flock. Walruses are extremely social creatures and “talk” to each other all the time. This one may have got too far away to hear the others in the flock, and so it has lost its way.
According to the site valar.se, which collects whale observations, this may be the same walrus seen off the coast of North Jutland over the past month. It was quickly named “Freja”, and perhaps she is the one who landed in Smögen on her way north, back to the Arctic Ocean.
It is rare and has only happened a couple of times before that a walrus has strayed into Swedish waters, the last time being an individual that landed on Tjörn in 2003. Last year, one named Wally was spotted on the Spanish coast.
They are often young males that set out on long migrations waiting to grow big enough to mate. But it could also be that the Arctic has become increasingly difficult for walruses. As the ice disappears, the protective ice floes become more crowded and the coasts can be both dangerous and busy.
A walrus can grow to more than three metres in length and weigh more than one and a half tonnes. If it’s Freja lying on the dock, she’s much smaller with only a couple of short tusks. This could indicate that it is either a young male or a female.
– Walruses can be dangerous, says Lars Öivind, but like most animals they are only dangerous if they are attacked. They have learned that we are dangerous to them and often stay away. And as I said, they are very social. This one is probably very lonely now.
In the clip above you can see underwater photographer Göran Ehlme getting acquainted with the walrus in Smögen.